While our physical offices are closed until further notice in accordance with Austin's COVID-19 "stay home-work safe" order, the Handbook of Texas will remain available at no-cost for you, your fellow history enthusiasts, and all Texas students currently mandated to study from home. If you have the capacity to help us maintain our online Texas history resources during these uncertain times, please consider making a 100% tax-deductible contribution today. Thank you for your support of TSHA and Texas history. Donate Today »


Thomas W. Cutrer

BUTLER, ANTHONY (1787?–1849?). Anthony Butler, lawyer, soldier, and politician, was born in South Carolina, probably in 1787 in Clarendon County, and established a sizable plantation in Russellville, Kentucky. At the outbreak of the War of 1812 he was commissioned a lieutenant colonel of the Twenty-eighth United States Infantry, on March 11, 1813. On February 21, 1814, he was promoted to colonel of the Second Rifle Regiment. After discharge he served as a member of the Kentucky legislature for two terms, 1818–19, but failed in a run for governor of that state in 1820. Butler was a resident of Mississippi in 1829 when his friend President Andrew Jackson, appointed him to succeed Joel Poinsett as United States chargé d'affaires in Mexico City. Historian Justin H. Smith commented that Butler's only qualifications for the post "were an acquaintance with Texas and a strong desire to see the United States obtain it." He had been through bankruptcy more than once, spoke no Spanish, was ignorant of the forms of diplomacy, and "was personally a bully and a swashbuckler." Further, Smith maintained, Butler was "shamefully careless," unprincipled in his methods, and "openly scandalous in his conduct...In brief, he was a national disgrace." Sam Houston wrote of Butler in 1832, "Such men as he is, would destroy a country, but take my word for it, he will never gain one!"

Butler was recalled to Washington early in January 1836 but remained in Mexico on his own authority and continued to report to Jackson on the actions and intentions of the Mexican government toward Texas. He at last returned to the United States in May 1836. He then took residence in Washington County, Texas, and in September 1838 was elected to the House of Representatives of the Third Texas Legislature. At the outbreak of the Mexican War he offered his services to Gen. Zachary Taylor, believing that his knowledge of the country would be useful. Butler moved to the North in 1847 or 1848. As a Mason he was grand master of Kentucky in 1812–13 and of Texas in 1840–41. In 1849 or 1850 he died on the Mississippi River attempting to save his fellow passengers from the burning wreck of the steamboat Anthony Wayne. His papers are preserved at the Barker Texas History Center, University of Texas at Austin.

Eugene C. Barker, "The Private Papers of Anthony Butler," Nation 92 (June 15, 1911). Francis B. Heitman, Historical Register and Dictionary of the United States Army (2 vols., Washington: GPO, 1903; rpt., Urbana: University of Illinois Press, 1965). John H. Jenkins, ed., The Papers of the Texas Revolution, 1835–1836 (10 vols., Austin: Presidial Press, 1973). Justin H. Smith, The War with Mexico (2 vols., New York: Macmillan, 1919). Texas House of Representatives, Biographical Directory of the Texan Conventions and Congresses, 1832–1845 (Austin: Book Exchange, 1941). Amelia W. Williams and Eugene C. Barker, eds., The Writings of Sam Houston, 1813–1863 (8 vols., Austin: University of Texas Press, 1938–43; rpt., Austin and New York: Pemberton Press, 1970).

Image Use Disclaimer

All copyrighted materials included within the Handbook of Texas Online are in accordance with Title 17 U.S.C. Section 107 related to Copyright and “Fair Use” for Non-Profit educational institutions, which permits the Texas State Historical Association (TSHA), to utilize copyrighted materials to further scholarship, education, and inform the public. The TSHA makes every effort to conform to the principles of fair use and to comply with copyright law.

For more information go to: http://www.law.cornell.edu/uscode/17/107.shtml

If you wish to use copyrighted material from this site for purposes of your own that go beyond fair use, you must obtain permission from the copyright owner.


The following, adapted from the Chicago Manual of Style, 15th edition, is the preferred citation for this article.

Handbook of Texas Online, Thomas W. Cutrer, "BUTLER, ANTHONY," accessed August 05, 2020, http://www.tshaonline.org/handbook/online/articles/fbu63.

Uploaded on June 12, 2010. Published by the Texas State Historical Association.
visit the mytsha forums to participate

View these posts and more when you register your free MyTSHA account.

Call for Papers: Texas Center for Working-Class Studies Events, Symposia, and Workshops
Hi all! You may be interested in this call for papers I received from the Texas Center for Working-Class Studies at Collin College...

Katy Jennings' Ride Scholarly Research Request
I'm doing research on Catherine Jennings Lockwood, specifically the incident known as "Katy Jennings' Ride." Her father was Gordon C. Jennings, the oldest man to die at the Alamo...

Texas Constitution of 1836 Co-Author- Elisha Pease? Ask a Historian
The TSHA profile of Elisha Marshall Pease states that he wrote part of the Texas Constitution although he was only a 24 year-old assistant secretary (not elected). I cannot find any other mention of this authorship work by Pease in other credible research about the credited Constution authors...